Influencers Uncensored: with Tom Slatin
We have said goodbye to our popular Bloggers Uncensored series to make room for the new and improved Influencers Uncensored! You're probably wondering what the difference between the two is outside of changing the name slightly and how it's "new and improved". Well, in this new series we've expanded it beyond just the blogging community to involve all social media influencers and youtubers! We'll also be diving deeper into the life of an influencer, racism, mental health, feminism, LGBTQ+ and so much more! Have you ever wondered what your favourite influencers really think about the topics that matter? Well now you'll find out in this raw and uncensored interview series!
Excited? Good! Because it's time to introduce today's Influencer...
Everyone meet Tom, here's a little about him:
"I was born and raised in New York City, and started writing and taking photos at the age of eight. In 1996, I designed and published my very own website. I have been employed as a writer, photographer, and website designer in various capacities since age 18.
In July 1998, I became a certified Emergency Medical Technician, then in 2001, became a certified Firefighter. I served 18 years in the fire service. I later left the fire and EMS service in 2016, shortly after being promoted to the rank of Fire & EMS Lieutenant, to pursue a lifelong dream of being a self-employed writer and photographer.
I am currently a contributing photographer for Canva.com, and Getty Images. My writing focuses on unique life experiences, while my photography focuses on abandoned locations, and adventure photography."
Life as an Influencer...
What initially made you get into blogging?
I started developing websites in 1996, and at that time web pages and websites had to be written and hand-coded using HTML. I had a large poster-sized layout hanging on my bedroom wall that illustrated the structure of the website. As time went on, I purchased specialized computer software that helped me to organise the site structure automatically, and would update the themes, layouts, and templates sitewide. Later on, when the site became popular and the pages began to number in the thousands, I spent months copying and pasting the content in to WordPress, which has made the process painless and extremely efficient.
What is your experience of societies perception about pursuing blogging as a career path?
Artistic pursuits, writing included, is often seen as a waste of time to most. I have often been accused of taking the easy way out of having a full-time traditional job, but in reality, writers, photographers, and artists are an integral facet of society and have been for centuries. In recent years, countless people have resorted to making money blogging and posting videos on YouTube, and while there are a handful of well known and successful bloggers and YouTubers, there are countless others, who, for whatever reason, went completely unnoticed. When I first started blogging, nobody knew what it was, and there was, of course, little of no competition. Today, the competition is fierce and there is a lot of unnecessary attention given to numerical values such as ones followers, engagement, subscribers, etc.
What are the pros and cons to being an Influencer in 2020?
The nice part of being an influencer is the engagement that one can receive from posting their content online. I now average 100 comments on my blog every single day. For several years, I posted something new on my blog every single morning at 9AM, though in recent months I have fallen behind schedule due to COVID-19 and staying quarantined as much as possible.
Being an influencer puts you in line for a lot of benefits, such as in-studio radio interviews, newspaper articles, and opportunities for paid gigs.
Unfortunately, being an influencer also puts one at risk of personal online attacks. It seems that people will do anything to make it to the top, envisioning a utopian experience once they get there, only to discover that their success leads to the jealousy of others who won't think twice to undermine or sabotage their success. I equate being an influencer with being a lesser-known celebrity.
The truth is, I was never looking for fame and fortune through my blogging, I was merely seeking some sort of validation that what I was creating was actually worthwhile. I survived a very traumatic childhood. Writing and photography was my salvation, and instead of simply surviving as an influencer, I was one of the lucky ones who was able to spread their wings and thrive.
What difficulties have you faced during your time as a blogger?
The most difficult thing to do as a blogger is to get your blog noticed. It takes years of promoting your blog to build any respectable following. I have distributed stickers to college students, written my blog address on bathroom stalls (don't do this), and of course, I have promoted my blog extensively on social media. Today I have in excess of 64,000 blog subscribers.
The influencer community is huge, who are your favourites to follow right now?
Oh there are so many to choose from. Truly. If I had to pick my top favourites, I would choose, in no particular order, Lisa Pellegrene, Thomas Hawk, Christopher Michael, Laura Schmidt, Rachael Millanta, Lauren Dudley, Davy Rothbart, Brett Walker, and Tracey Tobin.
Let's get deep...
Recently the Black Lives Matter movement got the world's attention. Racism is finally being talked about openly, and white privilege is being acknowledged. What is your opinion on the BLM movement?
If someone is born and raised in New York City, as I was, being a racist is difficult as one is constantly exposed to people from every single corner of the globe. I was raised to appreciate people for who they are, regardless of their nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, race, etc. I am compassionate, empathetic, and altruistic. I am also a total introvert who would rather blend into the crowd and be the person that everyone turns to when they need a supportive friend than to be the center of attention.
Although the protests have mostly stopped for the time being, what can we do to make sure the movement and black lives continue to be supported?
Violence and destruction is not the answer. Peaceful protests and documentation is the answer as the mode media and press attention that is devoted to the movement truly is the only way to create change. But most of all, it begins at home. No child is ever born a racist; racism is a learned disease that is completely unacceptable. My parents raised me to believe in, and strive for equality for all people, and that is something that I feel is right and universally important.
What does the word "Feminist" mean to you?
Feminism is just one more facet in equality for all people. A person should have the same opportunities, authority, rights, and comparable wages regardless of their gender.
In 2020, how important do you think the feminist movement is?
In 2020, the feminist movement is more important now than it has ever been in recent history, based solely upon my perspective of the current political climate here in the United States, which in turn, influences politics and public opinion on a world stage.
There has always been such a stigma surrounding mental health, how do you feel mental illness is being portrayed in today's society?
There is a major stigma that exists in the United States concerning mental health. Mental health services are the ones which are generally the most poorly funded and often overlooked, as physical health services generally take priority. I have personally visited a lot of the abandoned psychiatric hospitals here in the United States, and although we have made improvements in the ways in which we treat mental illness, there still is much more that needs to be done.
What can we, the government and society do to progress mental health services and end the stigma surrounding it?
Like most things in life, the best way to erase stigma is through awareness and education. The way in which mental illness has been portrayed in movies and in the media takes the majority of the blame for the stigma, in my opinion.
As an influencer you have to spend a lot of time on social media. Do you get affected by online trolling; whether it be directly or indirectly?
About half of my time is spent using social media. Social media is part advertising, part public relations, and part networking. As an influencer, I get trolled on a regular basis, and although I'm a full grown mature adult, some of the things that are said to me on social media truly hurt. I am selective about whom I interact with, more so about whom I follow, and I am extremely selective about whom I connect with on platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn. I see following someone back as a privilege, not necessarily a social construct or obligation, and even if I do follow someone, I will be just as happy unfollowing and/or blocking them if they ever troll me.
Do you think social networks are doing enough to combat online trolling? If not, what can they do?
Absolutely not! I think that all accounts should be verified using government-issued identification and should be legally associated with the individual who is responsible for its content. This way, we can identify those people who are the offenders and prevent them from posting hurtful content. If people were no longer allowed to remain anonymous and would be guaranteed to be held accountable for their actions, social media would not have so much hate.
Do you believe we are all individually responsible in stopping online trolls? What can we as the users do to help stop them and protect others?
Social media platforms have been the unfortunate victims of blame, when in reality they are simply a platform which is often abused by users. Reporting bad behaviour is generally ineffective as the majority of these companies are more concerned with making enormous profits than they are about adequately staffing people to combat the problem.
How much acceptance do the LGBTQ+ community receive in your country?
In the United States, there is an obvious contrast in acceptance between the larger metropolitan areas compared to the rural oes. Generally, in the big cities, people are more accustomed to and aware of the LGBTQ+ community, and are generally accepting. In the more rural and remote areas, far from cities and metropolitan areas, there really is no acceptance or tolerance. I have many friends who are lesbian or gay, a few that identify as bisexual, and two childhood friends who are transgender. I am completely open minded and am completely supportive and understanding of these things. If someone feels comfortable discussing the most personal and intimate details of their life with a friend, then it is a sign that your friendship is built upon unconditional love, trust, and respect.
Are we, as a society, making enough progress?
As a society, we are making progress, though I feel as if the progress is moving forward at a very slow and unsatisfactory pace. I wish for society to learn to love, respect, and appreciate people for who they really are, while at the same time, learning to ignore superficial things like race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, socioeconomic status, religion etc. As a human race, we would benefit tremendously if people would learn to accept and be inspired by difference instead of being judgemental of it.
In your opinion, why in 2020 do you think some people, cultures and countries still have a strong dislike or disdain towards the community?
In 2020, it became apparent that there is more divisiveness than there is acceptance and community. A community is a group of people living and working together, sharing good times and bad times. A community is what people make it to be, and if we learned to be more understanding and accepting of others, while holding individuals accountable for their actions instead of stereotyping groups, then everyone would have a much happier and productive existence.
Jimi Hendrix once said, "When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace."
In your opinion, what is the biggest issue we as a world are facing?
The top three largest world issues are global warming, narcissism, and fascism.
What does freedom mean to you?
To me freedom means being a citizen of the planet, free to roam anywhere I choose, without geopolitical borders, and the ability to do whatever I choose, so long as it doesn't adversely affect the environment, any living thing, or any living person.
What else do you feel passionate about?
I feel passionate about my writing, my photography, and most importantly, sharing my viewpoints on acceptance and understanding. Ideally, if nothing else, I would devote my life to the guarantee that every person had equality and fairness in every single sense of the word.
Let's end this with some fun 'This or That' questions:
Tea or coffee?
Text or call?
Texting. I am a much better writer than speaker.
Summer or winter?
Fall is my absolute favourite season, though I will take Summer over Winter if only given the choice between the two.
Love or money?
Love, because the fortune of one individual often equates with the poverty of others.
Book or movie?
Hard to say, because there have been instances where the movie was better than the book, or vise versa.
Sex or pizza?
Sex, though I do enjoy a good New York pizza.
Meat or veggies?
Meat, unless you're offering avocados specifically.
TikTok or Youtube?
Youtube wins by a long shot.
Fame or quiet life?
I like to be known, appreciated, and respected like anyone else, but I would never want to be so famous that I could no longer enjoy a quiet life anymore.
Night in or night out?
Night in; I'm a total introvert who enjoys a good book over a good party.
. . .
There's a new Influencer every Monday and Sunday at 6pm GMT, see you there!
If you're a blogger, influencer, youtuber or content creator and would like to be interviewed for the Influencers Uncensored series then please email me at - email@example.com or DM me on Instagram.
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